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Revised and expanded, this comprehensive manual clearly interprets neo-Pagan religious beliefs and practices for non-Pagans, such as professionals in law enforcement, education, social services, and the media. Educating the general public by providing a strong introduction to these alternative spiritual traditions, this updated reference explains the festivals, symbols, tools, and history of Wicca, presents new chapters on the practices of Druidism and Ásatrú, and demonstrates how oppressive religious doctrine has maligned modern Pagans. Written in an accessible style, this overview is tailored for believers as well as skeptics, scholars, and the idly curious. A glossary of neo-Pagan terms and an extensive bibliography are also included.
|Publisher:||Acorn Guild Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Kerr Cuhulain is a former police detective who was involved in antidefamation activism and hate crimes investigation for the Pagan community for nearly 20 years. He is the author of Full Contact Magick, Magickal Self Defense, Walking a Spiritual Path in a Sometimes Hostile World, Wiccan Warrior, and Witch Hunts. He lives in Surrey, British Columbia.
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A Handbook for Diversity Training
By Kerr Cuhulain
Acorn Guild Press, LLCCopyright © 2011 Kerr Cuhulain
All rights reserved.
Paganism and the Occult
Everyone would like to behave like a pagan, with everyone else behaving like a Christian.
— Albert Camus, French existentialist author and philosopher (1913–1960)
The word "pagan" first appeared in its modern spelling in 1425 in Higden's Polychronicon. In Mallory's Morte D'Arthur (circa 1400), it is spelled "paygan." The term can be traced back to the Latin root pagus, which originally meant "something stuck in the ground as a landmark" — in other words, a "peg." Pagus was derived from the root pag, meaning "fix." A whole family of English words can be traced back to this same root, including "page" and "pole." The noun paganus, meaning "country dweller," was ultimately derived from pagus.1
Etymologist John Ayto theorizes that because early Christians considered themselves "soldiers" of Christ and because paganus later came to refer to civilians, Christians adopted the word to refer to non-Christians. Others have speculated that paganus was used by the predominantly city-dwelling early Christians in much the same way as we would call someone a "hick" or "country bumpkin" today. We may never know for sure which of these theories is correct, but the fact remains that "pagan" ultimately became a term used by Christians to refer to non-Christians. In recent years, however, theologians and folklorists have begun using "Pagan" and "neo-Pagan" to specifically refer to followers of certain earth-based religions.
Pagans can be organized according to ethnicity, pantheons, or structure. Druid scholar Isaac Bonewits proposed several overlapping categories, including:
Paleo-Pagans: literally "old pagans." The original polytheists. Only a handful of remote tribes can lay claim to this category.
Meso-Pagans: "Middle Pagans." These people mix one or more kinds of Paganism and one or more kinds of monotheism. Examples: Sikhism (combining Hinduism and Islam), Theosophy, Rosicruscianism, Freemasonry, Vodou, and many modern Druid orders.
Buddheo-Pagans. Pagans who worship various Buddhas or Bodhisattvas.
Neo-Pagans. "New Pagans." These are revivals of older paleo-Paganism, modified meso-Paganism, or new creations such as the Church of All Worlds or Discordianism.
Recon-Pagans. "Recon" is short for "reconstructionist." Bonewits described these Pagans as scholars and conservatives leaning towards Luther's principle of "every man his own minister."
This book, however, is organized by the traditions' ethnicities of origin and pantheons, as I believe that will be the easiest model for the reader who is new to this material to understand.
In the Diversiton census of religion and belief, based on the 2001 census in the United Kingdom, 30,569 people indicated their religion as "Pagan." Other religious categories listed by respondents in this census include Wicca (7,227), Druidism (1,657), Celtic Pagan (508), Vodun (123), Ásatrú (93), and Santeria (21). Estimates vary widely as to how many Wiccans and other neo-Pagans there are in North America, the UK, and Australia. Author Phyllis Curott offers the highest estimate for Wiccans in the United States at between five and ten million. The Covenant of the Goddess survey of October 2000 estimated that there were 768,400 Wiccans in the United States, of which 37 percent were under the age of twenty-five and 11 percent were under the age of seventeen. Of these, 80 percent were solitary practitioners. The 2001 Canadian Census data indicates that there are 21,080 Wiccans and other neo-Pagans in Canada, an increase of 281 percent over the 1991 statistics, which is the greatest percentage growth of any religion. The average age of these respondents was thirty. The 2001 City University of New York's Religious Identification Study used a phone poll to estimate 134,000 Wiccans, 33,000 Druids, and 140,000 Pagans.* Nineteen percent (119,500) of the 629,000 Unitarian Universalists identified themselves in a 1999 study as "earth religionists." Bonewits estimates that 75 percent of the neo-Pagan community in North America is Wiccan, with 7-10 percent being Druid, 5-8 percent Ásatrúar, and the rest belonging to other Pagan categories. One thing is certain: Wicca and other neo-Pagan faiths are rapidly growing in size and popularity.
General Pagan Characteristics
I have often found it difficult to explain neo-Pagan beliefs to the uninitiated due to the nature of Western society. The predominant religion in Western society today is Judeo-Christianity. This faith has affected the nature of our society's laws, morals, and perceptions. Most people raised in Western society are thoroughly indoctrinated in Christian forms of thought, even though they may not attend church and do not consider themselves devout.
Many of those who have seen me take an affirmation rather than an oath on the Bible in court have asked me, "Aren't you religious?" or "Are you an agnostic?" when they really meant to ask, "Aren't you Christian?" They have been brought up to equate Christianity with religion. Some people find it difficult to believe that anything other than Christianity is a religion at all. Consequently, they have difficulty grasping what neo-Pagan religions are about, as Pagan religions have a different structure from Christianity. What I am attempting here is difficult, then, since the reader has likely not experienced a Pagan religion like mine before.
Since Christianity is well-known to Westerners, let's use it in comparison with neo-Pagan religions to illustrate some of the similarities and differences.
This strategy is not meant to suggest that one is better than the other; it is simply provided for the convenience of the reader who is more familiar with Christianity than any other religion. It should also not be construed as implying that neo-Pagan religions and Christianity are opposites or opposed to one another. Naturally, both religions are diverse, and not all of these generalizations will apply to all Christian denominations or all neo-Pagan groups, but the table below provides a quick reference guide showing how a neo-Pagan's perception of the world is quite different from the Christian worldview.
For the purposes of this book, I will divide Pagan religions into several categories:
Celtic neo-Pagans: this includes Wicca and Druidism.
Norse neo-Pagans: this includes Ásatrú and Odinists.
Ethnic neo-Pagans: Egyptian, Roman, Greek.*
Now that we are familiar with some general categories and characteristics of neo-Pagan beliefs, let's look at specific spiritual paths.CHAPTER 2
One can imagine the government's problem. This is all pretty magical stuff to them. If I were trying to terminate the operations of a witch coven, I'd probably seize everything in sight. How would I tell the ordinary household brooms from the getaway vehicles?
— John Perry Barlow
A Brief History
All religions were started by people, for it is people that they serve. The Wiccan religion is no exception. In the 1930s, a retired civil servant named Gerald Gardner attempted to reconstruct and revive Witchcraft, which he believed to be the indigenous shamanism of Northern Europe. Gardner was the first person to write publicly about Wicca, starting in 1949. Since then many others have followed his lead. There is no doubt that Gardner was instrumental in bringing Wicca out into the open. He founded a particular tradition of Wicca, which his followers call the Gardnerian Tradition, and in the process incorporated many of his own ideas into that tradition. Gardner presented a picture of a rediscovered ancient religion that had been preserved by isolated underground groups for years and had now surfaced more or less intact.
Whether the historical records presented by a religious group are accurate has little to do with how the religion functions or how the religion meets people's needs, however. Wicca, like every other religion on earth, is based partially on mythology. Mythology isn't meant to be taken as literally true, though it often stems from a kernel of historical truth. Mythology is metaphor and allegory, a powerful set of archetypes and symbols, and religion is mythology in action. As my wife and fellow Wiccan author, Phoenix McFarland, says, "Myth is the address of magick."
Some Wiccans believe that Wicca can be traced back to a historical "Golden Age." They get upset when some people attempt to discredit Wicca by arguing that Gerald Gardner, considered by most to be the father of modern Wicca, "invented" the religion in the 1930s. Though it is true that Gardner created what we now call Wicca, he incorporated many ancient elements into it. Every religion in history had a starting point; every religion was invented by someone, somewhere. McFarland views it this way: "Religions are invented from shards of older practices. In an archaeology dig, we find that one building is built upon the ruins of an older one. Our mythologies, like the phoenix, rise from the ashes of dying faiths." As is well-known and documented by biblical historians, the Christian Church incorporated many old Pagan customs into its worship in its early years. Isn't this "inventing" religion? The "older is better" argument is a logical fallacy. Truth is truth, whether it was discovered five minutes ago or a thousand years ago. Age has nothing to do with it.
Whatever you choose to believe about Gardner and his religion, Wicca, it has become the fastest growing religion in North America today.
Gardner's original Wicca inspired many others to imitate it or improve upon it. It triggered the creation of a host of "Brit Trads," all originating in the British Isles. Examples of Brit Trads include the Alexandrian, Kingstone, and 1734 traditions. The appearance of Wicca in North America sparked the creation of still more Wiccan "denominations," such as the Georgian Tradition and the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (NROOGD). Each of these traditions differs slightly in their use of ritual and myth. Yet all have common threads of practice and unifying themes that identify them as Wiccan.
Wicca is now a legal religion recognized by all levels of government in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Every state in the United States and most provinces in Canada have legal Wiccan clergy, many of whom are involved in local interfaith councils. For example, Pete "Pathfinder" Davis, founder of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, a Wiccan organization, went on to head the Washington State Interfaith Council. The U.S. Military has also recognized Wicca within its chaplain's manual since 1974. "Wicca" is a religious choice that has been an option for the dog tags of U.S. service men and women since 1991. Most U.S. and Canadian prison systems now have Wiccan chaplains, as do many universities.
The origin of the Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) word wicca, from which the word "witch" is derived, has been the subject of much debate. At one time, many believed that it shared a common root with the English words wit or "wise" and therefore meant "wise person" or "Craft of the wise." Another popular misconception is that it came from a root word meaning "to bend," and is related to the word "wicker."
Recent studies indicate that wicca derives from the eight thousand-year-old proto-Indo-European root word weik (pronounced "way-ick"), meaning "pertaining to magic and religion." This became the word wigila in Old Frisian (which translates as "sorcery"), wicken, weihen, and wikken in Middle Low German and Middle High German ("to enchant," "to consecrate," and "to divine"), and wicca (pronounced "wee'cha") in Old English.
The earliest known record of the word wicca ("male sorcerer" or "wizard") in Old English dates back to the year 890 in the Common Era (CE hereafter — I prefer this scholarly term to the Christian term AD). The word wicce, meaning a "female sorcerer," was in use by the eleventh century CE. Other related words in Old English include wiccian (to practice sorcery), wiggle (divination), and wiglian (to divine).
In its modern usage, the word "wicca" is usually pronounced with a hard "c," as it would be in common English. It has no gender and can properly be used to describe both males and females. Some modern Wiccans, however, employ the original Old English usage: "Wicca" for a male and "Wicce" for a female practitioner. The words Wicca, Wicce, and Wiccan can each be used as a descriptive term for a Witch. Wiccans often refer to their faith as "the Craft" or "the Old Religion."
One of the most common misconceptions today is that male Wiccans are called "warlocks." The modern term "warlok" first appeared in Scotland before 1585 CE, with the spelling changing to the more familiar spelling, "warlock," in 1685 CE. Before this it was variously spelled "warlag," "warlau," or "warlo," going back to about 1400 CE. It is derived from the Old English expression woer loga, which means "traitor" or "oathbreaker" (woer, meaning "faith," "pledge," or "true," plus loga, an agent noun related to leogan, meaning "to speak falsely"), a term that dates back to 900 CE. "Warlock" was a term originally used by early Christians in a manner similar to the original use of the word "pagan," as an insult. Later "warlock" came to describe a male (non-Wiccan) Witch. The folklore surrounding the use of the word "warlock" ultimately influenced Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, to adopt the term in 1970 as the title of a male initiated into the second degree within his church. A male Wiccan, however, is properly referred to as a "Witch" or a "Wicca."
What confuses many is that groups other than Wiccans have been known to use the title "witch," thus making life difficult for both Wiccans and those attempting to learn about Wicca. In a series of articles that appeared in The Green Egg in 1976-1977 under the title "Witchcraft: Classical, Gothic and Neopagan," Isaac Bonewits divided Witches into four categories, which are roughly as follows:
Classical Witches: These are people whose ancestors were village herbalists, healers, and midwives. Many were believed to have psychic or magical powers. Their skills were passed down through their families in the form of an oral tradition. This type of individual can be found in most cultures. To some of them, religion is fairly irrelevant to the practice of their skills. Some religious Wiccans are also heirs to long family traditions, however.
Gothic or neo-Gothic Witches: Few in number, these have picked up on the religious propaganda of past centuries and deliberately used the word "witch" to oppose themselves to Christianity. They would be more accurately classified as Satanists in the traditional sense and perform some of the practices invented by the Inquisition. This category also includes dabblers who borrow rituals and beliefs from a variety of books, movies, and other sources and call themselves "witches" simply because they perform ritual magick or conform to Hollywood stereotypes. Such individuals are often not religiously motivated at all.
Feminist Witches: Members of some radical feminist groups call themselves "witches" because they believe that the Inquisition was primarily anti-female in nature. Some of them believe that being born a woman automatically makes one a Witch. Some of these individuals practice magick, but many do not. Many feminists do fall under the following category of neo-Pagan Witches, however.
Pagan or neo-Pagan Witches: These are the vast majority of Witches and consist of those for whom Wicca or Witchcraft is a religion. It is this group that this book is partly about.
Wiccan Practice: a Comparison
In Wicca there is no scripture or dogma. Wiccans allow fellow worshippers an enormous amount of personal freedom in the practice of their religion. They are often eclectic and leave room for personal creativity and experience. Consequently, I can provide you with general guidelines for understanding Wicca, but it will be easy to find variations in ritual within the Wiccan community. To Wiccans such as myself, this is as it should be.
Earlier I showed you a table comparing and contrasting Christianity with neo-Pagan spirituality. The characteristics listed there all apply to Wicca, which is one of many neo-Pagan religions. The table below lists differences peculiar to Wicca.
Let's examine some of the characteristics of Wicca in more detail.
The Wiccan concept of the Divine is shaped by what we see around us in the natural world. Unlike most denominations of Christianity, we see a connection between the mundane and the Divine (more on this in a moment). We conceive of Divinity as manifesting as both female and male, as this reflects what we see in our universe. Therefore, unlike Christianity, we are not monotheistic. Most Wiccans recognize a Goddess and a God, though they may use different aspects of each, with the aspects varying depending on the intention of the ritual being done. This practice often gives the outsider the impression that we are polytheistic.
Wiccans are monists. We believe that the Divine is immanent in everything around us. We do not separate the Divine from the everyday world as many Christians do, and instead assert that "the world is the garment that divinity puts on in order to be seen." Everything around us is divine.
A natural and logical consequence of our duotheistic approach to the Divine is that men and women have an equal place in our religion. This has naturally attracted many women who found themselves excluded from other spiritual paths. There are some neo-Pagan traditions and groups that are for men only or women only. Such groups seem to have come about in order to explore themselves and their divinity from a single-gender viewpoint, but most do not oppose the duotheism of the larger Wiccan community.
Excerpted from Pagan Religions by Kerr Cuhulain. Copyright © 2011 Kerr Cuhulain. Excerpted by permission of Acorn Guild Press, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction to the Fourth Edition xi
Chapter 1 Paganism and the Occult 1
Part 1 Celtic Neo-Paganism 7
Chapter 2 Wicca 9
Chapter 3 The Magick Circle 21
Chapter 4 What Wicca is Not 32
Chapter 5 Wiccan Symbols 42
Chapter 6 Druidism 54
Chapter 7 Wiccan and Druid Deities 68
Chapter 8 Wiccan and Druid Festivals 75
Chapter 9 Samhain iVIisinformation 79
Chapter 10 The Real Samhain 93
Chapter 11 Other Festivals and IVIisinformation 98
Part 2 Norse/Germanic Paganism 115
Chapter 12 Ásatrú 118
Chapter 13 The Ásatrú Calendar 133
Appendix A Resources 139
Appendix B A Glossary of Neo-Pagan Terms 143
Suggested Reading 158
What People are Saying About This
"This new handbook can serve as a solid intellectual vaccination against misinformation about Pagans. . . . An instant classic and should be required reading for anyone training to work in the police and emergency services." Online Pagans Magazine